Tag Archives: economics

Peston’s children

Between the stories of lunatic Islamists on the rampage all across the world and John Noakes going missing in Majorca – unrelated as far as I can tell – a significant news event has snuck quietly between the gaps with virtually no fanfare. A whole country, and a famous one at that, has been banned.

Greece is done, finished, no longer allowed to exist. If I were hilarious I’d make some reference to the Monty Python parrot sketch at this point, but I’m not hilarious. A country that has done a fair amount for the advancement of humanity has been told by a selection of economists that it must now shutter up its tavernas and quit that stupid bloody dancing, because they’re all now to be scattered to the four corners of Europe and their lands shared between Bulgaria, Turkey and, controversially, Chad.

The day they officially run out of cash, which is either yesterday, next weekend, some time in August or a date chosen at random by distracted suits in offices in Washington, heavies will be dispatched to recover debts using whatever menaces are necessary. Old women queueing in incredible heat for hours for tiny pensions will return home to find men with bats removing their furniture in order to send it directly to warehouses in Brussels, Luxembourg, Berlin and elsewhere, where it will be burned as a health hazard with the resulting CO2 emissions blamed on Greece. No more plates will be broken because there will be no plates left to break.

That seems to be the result of the doom-laden reports plastered all over every press outlet because, yes, I was being sarcastic. The news is taking on the story of Greece’s financial woes with the vigour of a teenage boy offered the chance to mount his fit 20-something geography teacher before blaming her for grooming.

There is one single group of people who give a half-hearted toss about the situation in Greece: economic journalists. Their topic, as they themselves must admit, is as exciting as the tea cup ride at Lithuania’s top theme park, Stalin World. Even the Greeks themselves are done with it all, given they’re about to confirm in a referendum that their creditors can come and get it if they think they’re hard enough.

But economic journalists are wet with excitement that their news is the news, and that they get to tell us the most important details of the day rather than that boring ‘Muslim correspondent’ in France banging on about Herve Cornora’s disembodied head in a selfie. Chief among their number is Robert Peston, a man with a voice that sounds like he alternates breaths between nitrous oxide and opium. It’s virtually impossible to understand a single thing the man says as he drawls slowly along 14 words a minute before evidently being told by a producer to get on with it and speeding off on an unlistenable tangent, as thousands stare confusedly at radios with milk and cornflakes dripping from their open mouths.

The jist of Peston’s bonobo-like babbling seems to be that Greece must be blamed for getting itself involved with one of the world’s most despicable mafia-style organisations, known as the IMF. This is a group that helped to create the system in which countries are left to flounder unless they follow a very specific set of rules designed to propagate that system, the system which causes money to flow from poor people to rich people, because that’s how things are now, just deal with it. Take a look at the IMF’s Wikipedia page – their current list of ‘Executive Directors’ names 24 people, and all but two of them have a red link to their name, demonstrating no-one knows a fucking thing about them. The exceptions are Hazem Al Beblawi, a former Prime Minister of Egypt, and Rakesh Mohan, an Indian economist who probably wrote his own page.

While our economic journalists wheeze and whine that Greece are causing the world’s markets all manner of bother with their prevarication, perhaps they might turn an eye to the system that’s caused this. Bankers get slated for causing the calamity that’s affected every country in the world for the last seven years, but bankers didn’t create the system, they just broke it. We live in a world where the idea that the richest countries might let the poorest countries off a wee bit of debt, that they’ve absolutely no need to be repaid, is seen as a bad thing. Do we hear Peston, Hugh Pym, Richard Edgar or whichever scaly fuck Sky have doing their economics reporting explaining why the IMF, World Bank, OECD and the rest have turned the world into one massive market to be exploited by bastards for their own ends?

One of the main problems in Greece is their over-generosity when it comes to society’s chief unwanted burden: old people. Peston’s children will tell you that no country in the EU spends as high a proportion of their funds on pensions. This makes other countries look bad as they allow their old people to freeze and rot having outlived their use to capitalism. These other countries therefore demand Greece reduce their pensions spending, which currently amounts to less than 700 euros a month. That’s below the poverty line. Bad, bad Greece.

Just because economic journalists periodically demand their time in the spotlight doesn’t mean a whole country should pay the penalty. Greece spent when they could, suffered the same crisis not of their making as everyone else, went to the wrong loan sharks to sort it out and are now about to get their fingers broken for their troubles. None of that is fair, and little of it is their fault given the system they have to work within. It can hardly be a surprise that they’ve had enough, just like the rest of us have had enough hearing about it.

People just want to get on with their lives and the majority couldn’t give a shit about markets, currency fluctuations, debt defaulting, GDP or whether Angela Merkel herself is on her way right now to knee them in the balls. The story of Greece’s financial difficulties is meaningless to almost everyone on this planet who simply want to do a job with some purpose, spend their leisure time how they wish, enjoy friends and family and die with the minimum number of regrets.

At least when the repo men come to take away everything Greece owns, having no radios, TVs or houses to listen to them in will spare Greeks having to hear heartless ‘Executive Directors’ chuckling in amazement that there’s no uprising to put a stop to all this, or indeed the simpering economic journalists who make hay while the world cracks and crumbles. Perhaps Greece will be declared bankrupt, debts will be cancelled and they’ll be kicked out of the Eurozone, only to proceed to live on their means with the things they produce from the land within their borders, like normal countries used to do back when the world wasn’t run by wankers.

Maybe they’ll end up showing us how it was meant to be done all along. It’s the only way I can think of we might be able to handle Peston’s ear-splitting vocal somersaults and the pointless prattle of his kin.

The might of a beaten kitty

I’m nearly 1,800 miles away from my home. And the thing is, I love it.

I’m Spanish and my country has plenty of beautiful places, people and of course food. We all know that, because that’s what the adverts say. It’s supposed that we have a beautiful culture, and nature too. And the weather. All that crap.

Well, some of those things may be true. Maybe. But the fact is that, over everything, Spain has failed the Spanish people.

That may sound redundant; a smart ass could probably say that Spain’s made of Spanish people, so they’d be failing themselves. But the truth is that we’re not talking here about commoners. Not in this case, not in 2015.

Today, Spain’s not what Spanish people once built up, but a pale shadow of everything it could have been. And the big deal’s all about confidence. Confidence in a bunch of leaders that smiled a fucking lot when they talked about their new ideas to promote our economy, when they talked about not leaving any youngster without a job to get started in life or a proper and cheap student education that could bring them an even better lifestyle. But nope. My generation… maybe we’d be able to do it in another lifetime.

Their smiles are as fake as their words when their wives ask them if they look fat in that dress they’ve just bought with our money. And yeah, they’re mostly males, and their wives are all fat. Consequences of getting rich, I think. I’m not sure at all. I’ve never had the chance of being rich. I had no opportunities, as I couldn’t even afford a proper education at university. And anyway, I don’t think it would have help that much; it’s a loud-voice secret that Spanish education has a shitty reputation, and that’s totally fair. We have a shitty educational system wherein mechanical memorisation is the main priority.

And that’s why I’m here in London. My homeland is a battlefield in which there’s just two big political groups that somehow tricked us to continuously vote them for years, and all they did is throw red and blue coloured shits to each other the whole time (that’s their colours, very original). The one throwing blue shits is a conservative political group, and they’re always trying to fuck up things with women rights and that thing about killing foetuses. The one with the red shits may seem so communistic and all that, but they love money just like the others. They pretend they are with the proletarian guys and all those nice things, but they’re as blue as the blues. It’s just another mask.

They’ve been at it for ten years or so. And nobody ever asked why. When they started with this kind of pathetic behaviour, I was a child, and I just thought it was okay, because it just seemed how things should work. Just that. It was okay because it was normal. I got used to it as I developed my own thoughts. But, of course, most of us get to the point of maturity and so I did, and then I realized how mistaken I was. How stupid I was. And that’s why I ask myself now if all this is our fault or not. Was the smart ass right? I mean, is Spain made out of Spanish people? Even our leaders? After all, we could have done it like the Greeks, and got rid of them.

But we never did. And that’s why I am here in London, raging about my own country with the might of a beaten kitty.

Aberdeen is about to be demolished

Dreadful stuff, oil. Anything you can pour on a bird to fuck it right up is awful in the simple layman’s world I like to think I live in, but of course without oil you couldn’t have, well, anything. Oil powers everything and is responsible for all the good and bad things you can buy in the world; there’s no product that oil hasn’t had a hand in, from the enormous new TV you lick with joy when you get home to the internet that rules your life but you can’t actually touch, to the bottle containing the Lucozade Sport you mistakenly think will cure your hangover to the entire floor of horrifying sex toys you’ll find in Tokyo department stores that also sell Lego and Pokemon because wow it’s a strange place is Japan.

And oil, right now, is cheaper than it’s ever been. That’s fantastic news, says the idiot – everything we consume and shit back out without thinking will be cheaper. We can share the boon with businesses that we’ll allow to reduce the prices we pay a bit less than the reduction in oil prices. We win, they win. A victory for the system.

No. It turns out the lower the oil price the more completely wrecked the world’s economy becomes and the worse it is for everyone. There are people on the news horrified that the oil price, presumably set by people rather than by the oil itself, is so painfully low. Sheikhs can no longer afford huge cars they won’t allow women to drive. Aberdeen is about to be demolished. That’s economics.

Two years of pretending to listen to a teacher we used to call ‘Scrippy’, for reasons only entertaining to schoolboys and which with hindsight were stunningly misogynistic, taught me that economics is a dull, largely worthless subject. Perhaps my hatred of capitalism, combined with my guilty acceptance and use of it, stems from my A-level in Economics, in which I got a C.

What’s absolutely certain is that those two years taught me nothing. I have no idea how capitalism actually works.

I’ll give you another example: inflation. Inflation has hit an impressive low of 0.5% in the UK in the last week. Excellent, this must mean the price of things increases slower – that much I did learn from the A-level – which is a good thing for people who don’t own many, many boats laden with supermodels.

No. Inflation being low is bad you imbecile. The Bank of England has a target of 2% inflation – the economy is healthy if this time next year everything is 2% more expensive. Does anyone understand why that is? Is there an obvious reason I missed when poor Scrippy was scooping her mercantile shite into my ears that means it’s strange that prices should change at all? Is it the height of buffoonery to suggest that the price of things should remain the same unless there’s a shortage or surplus of whatever materials are used to make those things?

To make matters worse, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who strikes me as some kind of sprite, appears on the news to explain to us all that inflation being low is a vindication of the government’s economic strategy. Only he knows why, and the only thing that’s abundantly clear is we’re all fucked but they’re all right, plus ça change.

Were I a cynical man I might suggest that there are some among us who would use economics to dishearten and dumbfound the rest of us. When the majority have absolutely no idea what’s going on, when logical statements such as ‘lower prices are good’ turn out to be nonsense, the few people who assert they know what they’re talking about can claim triumph when defeat seems more inevitable than lower back pain in old age. Everything, if you look at it from the right angle, can be both superb and abominable.

The people with all the money get to decide how the money works, what the money does and where the money goes. There are slots on ‘news’ radio shows dedicated to economics and every three months some defiant berk at the head of a supermarket chain has to come on to explain why their devastating financial figures are both good for the economy generally and definitely good for their customers. Mr Tesco, I contend you may not be allowed to retain that Victoria Sponge you’re currently feasting on.

A final example of the madness of economics. To mind mind, there aren’t more cows than there needs to be, and probably not more farmers either. Explain, therefore, how the price of milk has fallen so low now that it’s selling at a lower price than it costs to produce it. Cows are expelling their juice for our benefit without the people manhandling them getting paid enough to make it a worthwhile endeavour, and though milking a cow is probably wondrous the first time you do it, it probably won’t be on at 5am on a Tuesday morning in December.

Is that good news or bad? Milk is cheaper for everyone, and everyone buys milk, so that’s good. But the people who produce the milk are getting stitched up and might then stop producing milk, so there’s then less milk, and the price goes up, and is that bad or good, and where am I? Maybe we’re meant to hate farmers, because they have big sheds that nobody’s allowed in, and inside these big sheds are twenty-foot high chickens, because of all the chemicals they put in them. And these chickens are scared.

Economics rules our lives and yet makes as much sense as the lap-dance dream sequence in I’m Alan Partridge. As far as I can gather, the most I got from Scrippy’s lessons was the knowledge that I will have to live within an economic system that makes no sense at the same time that it controls everything all of us do. For all we know it might be good for us, or it might be 2008 again and we’re all fucked for reasons none of us understand.

Either way, Robert Peston’s voice will still be the most atrocious sound you will hear of a morning.